Wide bandgap semiconductors increase the efficiency of new power devices

An article written by Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio for Power Electronics News -Efficiency is a driving force in all industrial sectors, including the consumer sector. In electronic systems, efficiency can lead to performance limitations as well as a reduction in service life. However, higher efficiency pushes the industry towards greater power density with the possibility of having smaller, lighter, and more reliable products, at the same time eliminating the limits of performance and providing higher power levels in data centers and automotive systems.

As the number of connected devices increases every day, more efficient power conversion can, in part, reduce the overall financial costs of powering these many billion devices. And because of the huge numbers involved, it has more recently become equally important to improve overall efficiency to reduce environmental cost.

It is essential to limit the losses, which in turn limit the efficiency of the system, often resulting in strong heat dissipation. Such losses are endemic in power conversion and heat is a particular enemy of semiconductor devices. The cost of removing unwanted heat from electronic equipment is unwelcome and harmful to the environment. This has fueled the research and development of more efficient semiconductor devices in order to increase efficiency in power conversion, improve power density, and reduce the overall financial and environmental impact of energy management.

Wide BandGap (WBG) semiconductors

Power semiconductors have historically been based on a silicon substrate, while silicon is an excellent general-purpose semiconductor that has well-documented limitations when dealing with high voltages. The market is continuing its race towards a request for more power, and the industry, in general, is moving away from silicon in favor of semiconductor materials, which are more suitable for power. These materials are classified as wide bandgap, referring to the fact that they are physically different from materials such as silicon on a crystalline basis. These differences represent several essential features, one of which is their ability to operate at higher switching frequencies while keeping losses at a shallow and manageable level.

Transistors are the building blocks of the microelectronics industry. The substrates dictate their behavior and therefore define the properties and functioning. The transistor is essentially a voltage controlled switch, the greater the power required, the larger the size. This is compensated by the use of WBG materials. The supply chain for WBG wafers is still being optimized and is not as mature as the huge infrastructure and supply chain already existing for silicon wafers. To overcome this roadblock/obstacle towards greater efficiency, the industry is making significant efforts in the development of new substrates, while continuing to exploit the economies of scale presented by silicon.

The new types of transistors made with innovative semiconductors, such as silicon carbide (SiC) or gallium nitride (GaN), are currently very much in demand to build power systems for the automotive industry and alternative energy.

Two variants of the GaN technology are GaN on silicon (GaN-on-Si) and GaN-on-silicon-carbide(GaN-on-SiC). GaN-on-SiC has contributed a lot to space and military radar applications. Today, RF engineers are looking for new applications and solutions to take advantage of GaN-on-SiC… Full article

Source: https://www.powerelectronicsnews.com/

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